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Movie review: Clooney out of this world in latest hit

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond. George is marvellous in a blockbuster Andrew Johnston says is a good old-fashioned adventure that all the family will enjoy

Published 22/05/2015

Sparkling display: Britt Robertson and George Clooney shine in Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
Sparkling display: Britt Robertson and George Clooney shine in Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is that rarest of summer blockbusters - one not based on an existing property, adapted from a comic book or cynically tooled to launch a string of sequels. It's a good, old-fashioned, stand-alone, family-friendly adventure, with a proper movie star - George Clooney - in the lead role.

Director Brad Bird may be best known for animated fare such as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, but he also made the hugely exciting fourth instalment in the Mission: Impossible series, and he builds on that film's action-packed milieu here.

The trailers have been quite stingy in their unfurling of the plot, and indeed, the less you know before seeing Tomorrowland, the more enjoyable an experience it will be. Suffice it to say, it's a retro-futuristic romp centred around a couple of kids, a crotchety mentor figure and a bad guy wearing black, and there the Star Wars comparisons do not end.

The movie has the same sense of wonder about our place in the universe that George Lucas once had. It also recalls the most sentimental of Steven Spielberg's work, as well as coming on like a live-action cartoon at times.

We meet Clooney's Frank Walker as a talented junior scientist at the 1964 New York World's Fair, where he is hawking his first major invention, a makeshift jet pack. Handed a badge adorned with the letter 'T' by the mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Frank touches it and finds himself deposited in a futuristic city of soaring skyscrapers and imposing robots - Tomorrowland.

Back in the present day, the focus shifts to Britt Robertson's Casey, an idealistic teenage girl, who lives with her father and little brother in the shadow of the NASA station in Cape Canaveral.

Displaying the same kind of scientific promise as Frank once did, Casey, too, finds herself in possession of a 'T' badge, which, whenever she touches it, similarly whisks her to Tomorrowland. (The visits to the titular cityscape are astonishingly realised, as you might expect from Bird.)

Whilst Frank's experience turned him into a paranoid recluse, the more headstrong Casey is eager to revisit the strange, magical world, and she searches out her predecessor, hiding away in a crumbling, booby-trapped mansion.

But Frank's fears prove well-founded when fascistic androids invade his secluded homestead, having followed Casey there, and so begins a journey that takes the pair into conflict with a leather jodhpur-wearing Hugh Laurie, surely the least likely Hollywood villain since Kenneth Branagh appeared as a half-man, half-mechanical spider in Wild Wild West.

The liberally-minded Clooney is stellar casting as Frank, the actor relishing the script's progressive nature and the opportunity to star in a film audiences of all ages can watch. His interplay with Robertson sparkles, while he and Laurie share several interesting scenes.

Director Bird and his co-writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) have so many ideas they want to impart, you'd think a lot of it might go over the heads of the target audience.

But perhaps children are better equipped to process a pacifistic, eco-friendly rallying call than their jaded parents are, especially when it's wrapped up in something that's as much fun as Tomorrowland: A World Beyond.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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